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"Principled courage of Gates and Mullen is a major step forward for civil rights." (NYT) [View All]

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jefferson_dem Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Wed Feb-03-10 08:18 AM
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"Principled courage of Gates and Mullen is a major step forward for civil rights." (NYT)
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Edited on Wed Feb-03-10 08:18 AM by jefferson_dem
Equality in the Military

History was made on Capitol Hill on Tuesday. More than 16 years after their predecessors helped impose the odious dont ask, dont tell policy, the nations two top defense officials called on Congress to repeal the law that bans gay men and lesbians from serving openly in the military. The principled courage of the defense secretary and the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff is a major step forward for civil rights.

Their action leaves no further excuse for Republican lawmakers to go on supporting this discrimination. President Obama must not let the opponents of repeal, who are already mobilizing, keep this terribly unjust law on the books.

Dont ask, dont tell was passed by Congress in 1993, with the support of Les Aspin, who then was the secretary of defense, and Gen. Colin Powell, who was the chairman of the Joint Chiefs. It compelled gay men and lesbians to hide who they are and to live in fear of being reported. Many thousands of men and women have been drummed out of the armed forces under this law.

Critics argue that the presence of gay service members makes the military less unified and effective. There is strong evidence that this is not so, including the experiences of nations, such as Canada and Britain, where gays serve openly. A policy of driving out good and talented people including ones with much-needed skills in Arabic, Farsi, and other languages makes the military less effective.

At Tuesdays Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, Robert Gates, the secretary of defense, and Adm. Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, made a clear commitment to end dont ask, dont tell following up on the promise President Obama made in his State of the Union address. The question, Mr. Gates said, is not whether the military prepares to make this change, but how we best prepare for it. He said, however, that more time will be needed to work out how to change the policy.

While the policy is being reviewed by the Pentagons top lawyer and the commander of the United States Army in Europe, Mr. Gates said the existing law will be carried out in a more humane and fair manner. One welcome change would be a decision by the military to no longer aggressively pursue discharge cases against people whose sexuality is revealed by third parties, including jilted romantic partners.

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